CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A family was outraged and said a teacher accused their 5-year-old Tennessee son with autism of overstepping boundaries by hugging and kissing other students.
His family says he doesn't know any better.
"I was sick to my stomach because, first of all, don't you understand he's a 5-year-old? He's a child?" Summery Putnam, the boy's mother, said.
Putnam said she received a call from her son's teacher at East Ridge Elementary about three weeks ago.
"The teacher called me and she said you need to have a talk with Nathan about boundaries," Putnam said.
The school staff has talked with the boy several times, the principal told WTVC.
The boy's mother says he has autism, making it difficult for him to understand social cues.
"If you don't understand how autism works, you'll think he's acting out or being defiant, but that's not the situation," Putnam said.
Putnam says the teacher said Nathan was overstepping boundaries.
She says the teacher accused her son of "sexual" activities after she was told he hugged a child and kissed another child on the cheek.
"He shouldn't be treated like this," said Debi Amick, the boy's grandmother.
Amick took to facebook asking, "What do you do when a 5-year child is being labeled a sexual predator and accused of sexual harassment by the school system?"
"The kid doesn't even understand what sex is," Amick said.
Hamilton County Schools confirmed the teacher submitted a report to the department of child services.
Spokesperson Tim Hensley said, according to school policy, "School personnel are required to report concerns regarding children to DCS."
It's up to DCS to determine if those reports are acted on by DCS and what form those actions may take.
"I talked to him," Putnam said. "I said, 'You can't hug children.' He said, 'Why?' I said, 'Because, Nathan, it's not allowed."
The family thinks the school is in the wrong.
"To bring something like this against a child, a special needs child, really — he doesn't understand what he's done wrong," Putnam said.
The school system would not comment on whether the teacher filed a report with DCS. A spokesperson said the sources of those complaints are confidential.